• November 18, 2018

As well as the pollution caused by background radiation levels of waste from Sellafield nuclear reprocessing facility discharged over six decades there is the other and more dangerous potential of radioactively contaminated particles.

Sellafield carries out beach monitoring on the English side of the Solway and Cumbria coast while SEPA have undertaken work along the Scottish coast in south West Scotland. I’m not aware of any beach monitoring in the Isle of Man although the government lab does maintain a yearly assessment of radiation levels in sea fish, seaweeds etc and the results are published.

The Cumbria coast has been subject to rigorous checks for over a decade now and a substantial quantity of particles have been found.

The detail is here in this rather upbeat notice from the UK Govt HSE written in the ‘cheery’ style only they could use when describing the nuclear waste menace:


However even HSE has to admit in this circular (and indeed in previous missives I’ve seen) that they cannot carry out monitoring of the seabed – quote:

“Between 2011 and 2014, Sellafield Ltd carried out offshore monitoring of the seabed as part of work to understand the extent of contamination. It detected one particle but, due to the practical difficulties of trying to detect radioactive material underwater, the monitoring only covered a small area of seabed.”

This is code for ‘it’s too expensive to find what’s down there’!

HSE give you the impression that ‘all is well’ and you could roll around on the beaches near Sellafield but pointedly a few decades ago when environmentalists arranged for a lorry load of mud from near the Sellafield plant to be dumped near government buildings in London there was a major clean up operation and the action was deemed irresponsible.

Not surprisingly some local people in Cumbria are not reassured by the HSE/ONR reassurances and earlier this year they arranged for testing of samples themselves at a lab in the United States. Of course the problem with all local environmental bodies is they do not have the resources to match Sellafield or the HSE nor do they have the slick PR machine they nuclear lobby has built up over half a century.

Here is a link to the concerns of Radiation Free Lakeland published in July 2018:


The Irish Sea is the largest contaminated area vis a vis radiation pollution on the planet. Maps I saw some years ago published by the UK Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) showed concentrations of pollutants at their highest in the Solway Estuary and the area bordered by South Cumbria – Maughold and Point of Ayre to Isle of Whithorn in SW Scotland. HSE and the UK should make greater efforts to monitor the seabed in this area for particle pollutants.

Footnote (1): HSE and the nuclear industry also montor beaches in the North of Scotland related to dumping from the Dounreay facility. In addition there is a non nuclear industry related clean up at Dalgety beach in Scotland related to MOD disposals which I intend to focus on in a future news item.

Footnote (2): It should be stressed that bodies like HSE, SEPA, The Irish Radionain monitoring agency and the Manx government lab stress that background levels of radiation in the Irish sea (as opposed to particle contamination) are within the accepted safety levels set by International nuclear watchdogs.

Related link:


Image: (1) Particle locating by the seaside! (2) Cumbria local newspaper article 2015. (3) Beach scanning equipment.

Bernard Moffatt

Assistant General secretary 
Celtic League

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